Palmer, Alaska

Have you ever heard of the Matanuska Colony Project? In 1935, the US government transported 200 families from the Midwest to the Matanuska Valley in beautiful Alaska. It was a social experiment funding by the government to escape the Great Depression and begin a new life. Each family homestead constructed a barn 32 feet square and 32 feet tall. That explains many of the barns that are found in and around Palmer, Alaska. I believe this “barn” was actually a sign for a giftshop that was in operation for some time on one of the original farms.

If you are interested in more of this fascinating history, you might want to check out the book “The Matanuska Colony Barns: The Enduring Legacy of the 1935 Matanuska Colony Project”,” by Helen Hegener.

This Fourth of July, Shon and I flew across the Yentna River to celebrate our independence with our small river community. When we arrived, I realized that there were quite a few people at the party that I didn’t know. There were some who only come up to Alaska for the summer. Others were “weekenders” who come out to their cabins every chance they get. I was happy to see an opportunity to get to know some new folks. I found an empty spot at the picnic table next to a friendly young woman. I asked her if I could sit next to her and she readily agreed. I introduced myself and mentioned that I didn’t think I knew her. Her reply? “I know you! I have your book.” We both laughed at my surprise. I had to get over the fact that she knew so much about me and I knew nothing about her! It was such a strange feeling. In just a little bit, however, I realized it actually saved time. Instead of going back and forth about who we both are, where we come from, and what we do, we jumped right into a wonderful conversation. In just a short time, I got to know her and her sweet husband and made two new friends.
Maybe it isn’t so bad being an open book.

Picture Credit: Cammeron Edwards

Have you ever heard of chaga?  I never did until we moved to the cabin on Cub Lake.  I went with a neighbor from across the lake on a walk one winter and she pointed some out to me.  She said it had wonderful health benefits and many people around here harvest it.  It looked like a big piece of charcoal stuck to the side of a birch tree to me.  I was intrigued, so I did a little bit of research.

The useful chaga is not the black stuff that you see on the tree, but an orange substance underneath that rough exterior.  It is a mushroom, a fungus, that mainly grows on birch trees in cold climates.  It has been used to treat diabetes, some cancers, and heart disease.  It is high in antioxidants, can boost a person’s immune system, and fights inflammation.  In fact, I came across a pretty extensive list of its many benefits.  That is what I found on the internet, so take it for whatever that is worth these days.

Now that I have you wondering about this wonder fungus, I am sure you are curious as to how to consume this disgusting looking tree mushroom.  Shon and I cut a tree down the other day that had a clump of chaga so I decided I would give it a go.  Shon knocked the chaga off with a hatchet and gave it to me to process.  I took it in the house and used a knife to get the black stuff off.  That wasn’t easy, but I read that it gets more difficult the longer you wait because it dries out and hardens.  I put it in a freezer bag and hit it a few times with a meat tenderizer to break up the big chunks.  When we turn the generator on later, I will send it through my food processor to make it even finer.  After that, I will spread it out on a cookie sheet and let it dry for a few months.  When it is dry, we will be able to make it into a tea, add it to our coffee, or we can even make chaga hot chocolate.  I will let you know how it tastes and if we are miraculously healed of all of our aches and pains.    

I have just started this chaga journey, so I am learning and am open to any fungus advice.  Feel free to comment with any tips if you are a chaga expert! 

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Skwentna Post Office
Steve is the Post Master

Did you know that the Skwentna Post Office is located in an old trapper’s cabin? It is across the Skwentna River from the main community. During the spring and fall when the water is thawing or freezing, the post office is not open because it is impossible to get across the water. The mail is flown in from Anchorage on Mondays and Thursdays if the weather is good. it usually flies right over our cabin on Cub Lake. Steve picks the mail up from the airport and either snow machines or uses a boat to transport the mail across the river to the little cabin. Most of the residents who get their mail at the little post office would like to see it moved to the other side of the river so it can remain open year round.